A gunman shot and killed two police officers in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday before turning his gun on himself in what New York’s top cop called an “assassination.”
The shooter opened fire on officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as they sat in their patrol car at Tompkins and Myrtle avenues that afternoon, police said. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor DeBlasio, flanked by city and Police Department brass, mourned the loss and condemned the killing.
“Today two of New York’s finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” Bratton said. “They were, quite simply, assassinated, targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”
Ismaaiyl Brinsley approached the officers’ car shortly before 2:50 pm and opened fire with a 9-mm handgun, shooting both officers in the head through the passenger side window, according to Bratton. Brinsley then fled onto the platform of the Myrtle–Willoughby G train stop, with officers close behind, and shot himself in the head, Bratton said. Paramedics transported Brinsley to Brooklyn Hospital Center, and doctors there declared him dead, a report says. Officers recovered a silver, semiautomatic Taurus pistol at the scene, Bratton said.
Liu and Ramos were taken to Woodhull Medical Center, where doctors attempted in vain to save them, Bratton said.
Liu and Ramos belonged to Downtown’s 84th Precinct, but were posted outside the Tompkins Houses on an anti-violence detail, according to the commissioner.
Ramos, 40, had been a policeman for two years and was married with a 13-year-old son, Bratton said. Liu, 32, had been on the force for seven years, and was recently married, he said.
DeBlasio hung his head and closed his eyes as Bratton spoke. When the mayor took the microphone he lashed out at the shooting, describing it as an assault on all New Yorkers.
“When a police officer is murdered it tears at the foundation of our society,” DeBlasio said. “Police are the foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency.”
The killing comes as New York and cities nationwide are embroiled in protests over the police killings of Gowanus native Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, neither of which resulted in criminal charges.
Shortly before the shooting in Brooklyn, Brinsley shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore County, seriously injuring her, Bratton said, and wrote in Instagram posts that he planned to murder officers as vengeance for the deaths of Garner and Brown, according to reports. “I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today. They Take 1 of Ours...... Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice,” he reportedly wrote alongside a photo of a silver pistol, adding references to Garner and Brown. Baltimore officials warned the NYPD about the posts, but the word came too late, Bratton said.
Brinsley is said to have lived in Georgia and Bratton said he had unspecified ties to East Flatbush.
The last police officer who died in the line of duty was Officer Dennis Guerra, who perished after responding to an arson in Coney Island in April.
Protest leaders and Borough President Adams, who has been sympathetic to the demonstrations, condemned the murders, saying that they could hurt the cause of police reform. Police union representatives who have accused Mayor DeBlasio of fomenting distrust of officers by speaking in support of the protests lashed out following the murders. On Saturday night, representatives of two police unions said that the mayor has blood on his hands.
“There is blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said during a press conference outside the hospital. “That blood on their hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.”
Lynch’s union has been embroiled in a contract dispute with the city since May.
The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association tweeted a similar message.
A video taken in the hallway of the hospital shows dozens of officers turning their backs on DeBlasio as he makes his way to the press conference after meeting with family members of the slain officers.
At 8:30 pm that night, the intersection where the officers were shot was inaccessible for blocks, with police floodlights illuminating the surrounding streets. Police in helmets and body armor patrolled the neighborhood with semiautomatic rifles and K-9 units, and neighbors gathered at the police line. One woman, just returning to the neighborhood with her 8-year-old son, was unable to get to her apartment in the Tompkins Houses, and had only just heard about the shooting. The woman, who declined to give her name, said that the relationship between the community and the police is often tense, but that violence and hatred are never the answer.
“Don’t shoot the police, don’t hate the police,” she said. “They keep us safe.”